Skip to content

Baseball is not a movie. Stop trying to dramatize it.

Feb 6, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

Brief Encounter

I think I stumbled upon the single most significant thing said about the entire baseball-PEDs story. The writer, Tom Verducci, likely did not realize he was saying the most significant thing about it all, but he did all the same.

After correctly noting that athlete after athlete has denied using PEDs in the past, only to later be found to have used them, Verducci says we can’t take anyone’s denial at face value anymore. Why?

… but we have seen how the movie ends too many times.

Thinking of this as a movie — or a grand drama of any kind — is why the discourse about PEDs has become so stupid.  When we think of it as a drama we require heroes and villains. We require quick resolution. We require a stunning, conclusive and emotionally satisfying dénouement.

But baseball isn’t a movie or a play. It’s a sport, played without a script by real living and breathing human beings.  We’ve been conditioned to think of it in dramatic terms because the sporting press developed as a means of dramatizing that which most people didn’t get a chance to see in newspaper accounts, but it is not itself a drama.

When baseball gets into the realm of PEDs and law enforcement our tendency to treat it as a drama is even stronger. Sports are often dramatized, but TV shows and movies have featured cops, doctors and lawyers more than anyone else by a factor of a million.  Put that all together and it’s almost impossible not to think of things like BALCO or the Biogenesis story in the same terms we think of “Law and Order” or “House.”

But that’s not how real life works. In real life stuff happens. If that stuff seems problematic or suspicious, it often, but not always, gets investigated. That stuff may have been motivated by evil, but it may have also been motivated by stupidity or accident or a combination of them all. Or there may be a mistake.  When the stuff gets investigated something approaching justice may result. But just as often nothing may come of it because there are dead ends or nothing particularly bad happened or because everyone just loses interest in the stuff. There may be consequences to it all or it may be meaningless.   It almost always takes a long time to determine whether the stuff meant anything or not.

That reality is really problematic for people who are used to packaging three hour ballgames into 800 word chapters and 162-game seasons into a novel, complete with heroes and villains. Which is why people in that world seem to eager to leap into this sports-legal-medical gumbo and begin to hash out plots.  It’s way easier to do that than to sit back and see what happens and what it all means. If it even means anything.

We let them do that with the games because they are, after all, just games. But when someone’s reputation, fortune, career and sometimes their very freedom is on the line, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to expect them to lay the hell off for a bit and let events unfold before they try to stuff them into the little dramatic constructs with which we’re so familiar.

Latest Posts
  1. Rangers designate Neftali Feliz for assignment, activate Matt Harrison

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT

    Neftali Feliz Neftali Feliz

    In a shocking move, the Rangers designated Neftali Feliz for assignment to clear roster space for Matt Harrison.

  2. Coco Crisp is dealing with kidney stones

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT

    Coco Crisp Coco Crisp

    Base Ba’al has no mercy for Coco Crisp.

  3. Report: Mets willing to “overpay” to acquire Ben Zobrist

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    Ben Zobrist Ben Zobrist

    The Mets are VERY interested in Ben Zobrist.

  4. The Mets have discussed, but decided against, calling up prospect Michael Conforto

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    Michael Conforto, Barbaro Arruebarruena Michael Conforto, Barbaro Arruebarruena

    The Mets are getting desperate for runs, but aren’t ready to rush prospect Michael Conforto just yet.

  5. Miguel Cabrera exits Friday’s game with a calf injury

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    DETROIT, MI - JULY 3: Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers leaves the game with trainer Kevin Rand during the fourth inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 3, 2015 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Miguel Cabrera suffered a calf injury after a single in the fourth inning on Friday against the Blue Jays.

  6. Patrick Corbin to start for the Diamondbacks on Saturday

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Patrick Corbin Patrick Corbin

    Patrick Corbin will complete his long trek back to the major leagues when he starts against the Rockies on Saturday.

  7. Josh Reddick expressed unhappiness with his playing time in a radio interview, then apologized

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Josh Reddick Getty Images

    The Athletics haven’t used Josh Reddick much against left-handed starters. Reddick isn’t too happy with that, despite his results against southpaws.

  8. Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon to miss two months due to hernia surgery

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Jameson Taillon Jameson Taillon

    Jameson Taillon was getting pretty close to returning to action for the Pirates, but an inguinal hernia has knocked him back on the shelf.

  9. Cubs acquire Clayton Richard from the Pirates for cash considerations

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Clayton Richard Clayton Richard

    The Cubs acquired Clayton Richard from the Pirates and he’ll start for the club on Saturday.

  10. The Blue Jays are interested in Jeff Samardzija

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:52 PM EDT

    Jeff Samardzija AP

    Both he and the White Sox have disappointed this year, but he could help a contender.

  11. The Tigers have designated Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny for assignment

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT

    Joba Chamberlain Getty Images

    Chamberlain has posted a 4.09 ERA and an ugly 1.682 WHIP in 30 appearances this year. Gorzelanny has been even worse.

  12. Travis Ishikawa designated for assignment by the Giants. Again.

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT

    travis ishikawa getty Getty Images

    He’s only had six plate appearances since being recalled in late June.

  13. Yovani Gallardo extended his scoreless innings streak to 29 and a third

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT

    Yovani Gallardo Getty Images

    He has a 2.56 ERA and a 72/31 K/BB ratio over 102 innings on the season.

  14. The Braves get a walkoff win against Max Scherzer

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Cameron Maybin Getty Images

    He wasn’t hit hard, but the Braves hit ’em where they weren’t.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. M. Moore (3445)
  2. J. Hamilton (3366)
  3. J. Ellsbury (3167)
  4. M. Cain (2994)
  5. M. Sano (2923)
  1. H. Ramirez (2756)
  2. J. Fernandez (2567)
  3. P. Corbin (2544)
  4. B. Harper (2490)
  5. C. Dickerson (2411)